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Global decline in subsistence-oriented and smallholder fire use

Cathy Smith (), Ol Perkins and Jayalaxshmi Mistry
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Cathy Smith: The Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society
Ol Perkins: The Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society
Jayalaxshmi Mistry: The Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 6, 542-551

Abstract: Abstract Controlled fire use for hunting, gathering, smallholder agriculture and pastoralism shapes ecologies and enhances livelihoods worldwide. Yet, at global scale, we know little about how these practices influence human well-being, ecologies and wildfire risk. As a basis for global syntheses, we collated information from the literature about fire practices in 587 case study locations spanning the globe. Here, we assess the coverage and completeness of these data. Limited quantitative data, particularly, present a challenge for improved modelling of anthropogenic influences on fire regimes. We also analyse global trends in fire practices from these studies, finding evidence that subsistence-oriented fire practices have declined in recent decades, while market-oriented fire practices have increased. Implications of these changes can include reduced biodiversity in fire-dependent ecosystems, increased wildfire risk, reduced household income and loss of cultural identity. The case studies point to important drivers of changing fire practices, especially economic pressures and state governance.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00867-y

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